Red-light runners no match for ‘sneaky’ cops in Ottawa

Motorists and cyclists running stop signs and red lights downtown should expect to be nailed by cops this spring and summer.

“Everybody knows the rules but they roll the dice,” said Ottawa police Sgt. Mark Gatien from the traffic escort unit.

“We see it daily.”

So many cyclists are breezing through intersections, Gatien describes it as “rampant.”

“We love seeing them go through red lights, ’cause they say, ‘oh, I’m just a bicycle,'” said Gatien.

“There’s cars that go through red lights as well but I see a lot of bikes … If they want to be treated as equal as cars then they have to follow the same rules.”

The fine for running a stop sign is $110 plus three demerit points.

A red light infraction is $325; offenders ticketed by police and convicted receive three demerit points.

With red-light cameras the owner of the vehicle receives the ticket regardless of who was driving, since the cameras only capture the rear licence plate.

That means the identity of the driver can’t be proved, said Staff Sgt. Sam Fawaz.

In Ottawa 33 intersections have red light cameras, according to the city’s website.

Even if caught on camera, cyclists are exempt.

For the month of April, the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program has been focusing on distracted drivers and cycling safety.

Still, that “doesn’t mean it’s open season on any other offence,” said Gatien.

In a recent blitz downtown at Laurier Ave. and Bank St., an officer in plain clothes rode a bicycle with a courier bag over his shoulder.

He was radioing other cops to snag red light runners.

“We have to be sneaky ’cause people aren’t going to break the law when they see police,” said Gatien.

“We’ve hit them hard once already. We’re going to do it over and over and over again.”

Gatien is reminding cyclists to not only follow the rules of the road but to be prepared with safety equipment.

Cyclists must have at least one white or amber light showing to the front and a red reflector on the back.

”We prefer if you have an LED of some sort,” Gatien said.

“The more you’re lit up, the better you’re going to be seen by cars.”

In addition, a bell or horn will act as a warning system.

A helmet is optional for riders over 18.

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche

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